Lakers keep Robert Sacre as No. 3 center, waive Robert Upshaw
Before the season starts, the Lakers need to trim the roster from 19 players to 15. Who will survive the preseason?
The Lakers chose experience over potential, one 7-foot Robert over another, to end their first roster battle of the exhibition season.
It was viewed by some as a mild surprise when the Lakers waived Robert Upshaw instead of Robert Sacre on Tuesday, but people within the organization were unanimous in the decision.
Sacre keeps the locker room light with his offbeat humor, can play some defense as the team’s third-string center, and has a guaranteed contract for just under $1 million.
Upshaw, despite his enticing shot-blocking skills, had trouble picking up the offense, often left the training facility after practice without putting in extra work, and was guaranteed $35,000.
“There were flashes of him being able to defend and do some of the things that we wanted him to do, but a lot of it was still a big-time learning curve for him on both ends of the floor,” Lakers Coach Byron Scott said Tuesday.
The Lakers hope Upshaw clears waivers later this week and signs with their Development League team, the L.A. D-Fenders.
Upshaw brought a tangled past to the Lakers when he signed a free-agent deal last month after going undrafted in June.
He was booted from two college teams — Washington and Fresno State — because of detrimental conduct and hoped to show his solid upside to the Lakers after averaging 10.9 points, 8.2 rebounds and 4.5 blocked shots in 19 games last season for the Huskies.
Upshaw’s NBA numbers were less impressive — averages of 2.5 points, three rebounds and 0.75 blocked shots in four exhibition games.
It was unclear what Upshaw’s immediate future would hold, but the Lakers weren’t looking back.
“You’re not going to kick yourself,” Scott said. “It’s a decision that we made and if it happens to be the wrong decision two, three years down the line, then you just live with it.”
Roy Hibbert will be the Lakers’ starting center, followed on the depth chart by energetic second-year player Tarik Black and then Sacre.
Sacre is entering only his fourth season but is somewhat of a veteran on the Lakers. He has the second-longest tenure on the team after Kobe Bryant, making the center a mentor at age 26.
“That’s a scary thought,” he said jokingly. “It’s always good to contribute any way I can on a team like the Lakers.”
One roster battle remains — Metta World Peace versus second-year guard Jabari Brown. World Peace, 35, holds a slight edge and has shown good defensive prowess but nothing is cemented before the season opener next Wednesday against Minnesota.
Bryant (bruised lower leg) did some light shooting Tuesday but his status for Thursday’s exhibition finale against Golden State was undetermined, Scott said. . . . Guard Michael Frazier was waived Tuesday. He was a longshot to make the team after going undrafted out of Florida.
Times correspondent Eric Pincus contributed to this report.
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